Thousands of efforts are under way to help those impacted by the floods in eastern Kentucky, including many here in Scott County.
Those efforts range from collecting supplies to soliciting monetary donations to actual on-site rescues and assistance by first responders, the Kentucky national Guard and private citizens.
This week, some young people set up a lemonade stand to raise money for flood victims.
“We’re just doing this for people in need,” said 12-year-old Katelyn Wilkerson. “Just to help them out because of everything they’ve been through, and they really can’t do anything about it.”
Some 16 area first responders from the Georgetown Fire Department, Scott County Fire Department and emergency medical technicians have gone to areas struck by the floods to search and rescue victims.
The death toll has climbed to 37, but Gov. Andy Beshear fears that number may rise as the waters fall. Now that the rain has stopped, heat and humidity are settling in.
“The biggest concern we have is the weather,” Beshear said. “It is very, very hot. Highs are to be in the 90s. Combined with the humid airmass, it’s going to make it feel much hotter. The heat index will be over 100 degrees at some locations, that’s why we set up eight cooling centers in those areas. If you don’t have power, if you don’t have a cool place to be, go to one of the centers.”
The cooling centers are located in Breathitt, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Perry, Pike and Wolfe counties.
While hundreds of people had initially been reported missing in the 13 flood-ravaged counties, people were encouraged to call the Kentucky State Police post in their loved ones’ area so troopers could check on them due to electric and cell phone outages. As a result of over 1,000 wellness checks, as well as power and cellphone service restoration efforts, Beshear said the number is now down to three.
“We are very concerned about them,” he said. “All three are females in Breathitt County.”
More than 400 Kentucky National Guard troops have been sent to the area, fulfilling a variety of roles, including search and rescue missions, assisting local law enforcement and delivering water, since many areas had their water service disrupted and facilities destroyed.
A total of 2,404 cases of water had been delivered as of 8 a.m. Wednesday, Beshear said. “But I guarantee there will be a lot more, as we’re moving water as fast as we can.”
While there were over 30,000 people without power at the height of the flooding, the Governor said that number is now down to 5,068. The biggest remaining outages are 1,460 in Breathitt County, 1,068 in Knott County and 2,268 in Perry County.
Transportation Cabinet crews have inspected 84 percent of the nearly 1,100 bridges in the affected area. Of the 21 bridges that are still impassible, four are state bridges and 17 are county bridges. While state roads have been cleared, Beshear says the Cabinet is helping on county roads, with crews coming from as far away as Paducah.
Due to the extent of damage, the governor says he has been talking with state lawmakers about a special session to appropriate recovery funds, since the state had a nearly $1 billion surplus for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, plus more than that amount unspent in the two-year state budget the General Assembly approved in the spring.
“I anticipate that is something we will need,” he said, “and that we will work out ahead of any special session. We are going to need a package like the SAFE Act.”
That was enacted by the legislature to help recover from the deadly December tornado outbreak in western Kentucky last year.
Beshear also said the increased law enforcement presence has led to a reduction of looting in the affected area.
“To loot, to steal from people who have lost everything is the worst of humanity, and it’s hard to believe someone would go so low as that. It’s the same with scamming. Folks don’t have money, and to take what little they have is horrendous. We will not allow it; law enforcement will catch and prosecute any looters to the fullest extent of the law. Listen, if you know our state and our folks, maybe you’re lucky if it’s law enforcement that finds you, if you’re willing to stoop that low.”
County businesses with ties to eastern Kentucky have also been organizing donation drives. MLS Powersports delivered a load of donations on Wednesday and Johnson’s Funeral Home is collecting goods through Saturday. Toney Chaney, one of the owners of Johnson’s, is from Perry County and still has family that lives there. Chaney and his business partner Grant Bolt are in communication with those family members on what items are still needed. Updated information on what they are collecting and where it can be dropped off can be found on their Facebook page. Experts advise to make sure anything donated is currently needed as excess donations can create logistical and storage problems.
The state has established a “Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund” to assist those impacted by the floods and severe weather. All donations to the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund are tax-deductible and donors will receive a receipt for tax purposes after donating. Donations can be made online or if you would like to mail in a donation, please make your check out to Kentucky State Treasurer. In the memo line please note the donation is for the “Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund.” Send check to Public Protection Cabinet, 500 Mero Street, 218 NC, Frankfort, KY 40601.